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Melissa Harris- Perry

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Us 27, Ukraine 23, Texas 21, Arizona 12, Russia 12, America 11, Spiriva 10, U.s. 9, Crimea 8, Paul 6, Copd 6, Obama Administration 5, Washington 5, Lewis 5, Campbell 4, Shane Bauer 4, Ari 4, At&t 4, Obama 4, California 4,
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  MSNBC    Melissa Harris- Perry  

    March 2, 2014
    7:00 - 9:01am PST  

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cut! [bell rings] this...is jane. her long day on set starts with shoulder pain... ...and a choice take 6 tylenol in a day which is 2 aleve for... ...all day relief. hmm. [bell ring] "roll sound!" "action!" this morning, my question, who decides how voting will work in ohio? well, we may need to change the answer. a special report on alternatives to prison. and a new book about what really happened in the george zimmerman trial. but first, does religious freedom guarantee your right to be wrong? good morning to you. i am ari melber in for melissa harris-perry and we begin with breaking news in ukraine. the government is calling up military reserves.
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this is all in response to the growing presence of russian personnel in ukraine's crimea reign. hundreds of gunman surround ukraine's military base in crimea and we're seeing armored vehicles and mounted machine guns. the gunman are unidentified for the most part, but many of their vehicles have russian license plates. their demand, that ukrainian troops disarm and the russian parliament just yesterday unanimously approved vladimir putin's request for military intervention. the response in ukraine was swift and concerning. its prime minister calling president putin's actions a declaration of war against ukraine. meanwhile, in crimea, which is predominantliety ethithnically russian, protesters took to the street. it all comes, of course, in the wake of president obama's friday warning that a russian military intervention of any kind in ukraine could constitute a violation of territorial sovereignty and would carry
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significant consequences. on saturday, president obama followed up on those public warnings with a private call to putin. there you see him in the white house photo. it was unusually long. aides described the 90-minute thorough discussion of the crisis and the president's insistence that russia cannot legitimately invade or control ukraine. now, one immediate consequence, the administration is canceling, officially canceling preparations for the g-8 economic summit in russia later this year. and this morning, secretary of state john kerry just weighed in on "meet the press." >> president putin is using force in a completely inappropriate manner that will invite the apropium of the world. he's going to lose all of the glow that came out of the olympics. he is not going to have a sochi g-8. he may not even remain in the g-8. >> we go directly to nbc's jim maceda in moscow.
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jim, what are we to make of president putin's actions here? >> reporter: hi, eric. so far, it's playing out very much along the old soviet playbook, isn't it? you have russia asked to intervene in crimea by russian compatriots under threat. putin had got the use of force and 24 hours later, russian forces have pretty much neutralized crimea without firing a shot. so he's already attained his key short-term goal, anyhow, and i think that's reminding kiev and reminding the west that vladimir putin can't be cut out of ukraine's future. and that he truly is prepared to use his facility anywhere in ukraine, if used to defend his interests. and that doesn't seem to worry him at all, this idea of consequences, for him not going or going to the g-8 or whoever comes to the g-8 doesn't seem to be a big issue.
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his larger goal, analysts tell us, is to bring ukraine into a kind of soviet economic union, something that would rival the eu. okay, that doesn't look very likely now that kiev is going pro-west, but they say putin still has enough influence in ukraine, just think of the natural gas taps that he controls, that he could really seriously handicap kiev's european ambitions. finally, in terms of what putin is likely to do next, he seems reluctant to send troops beyond crimea at this point and into other parts of ukraine, but harry, that could change at any time. he doesn't seem ready, either, to annex ukraine or large parts of it or launch a major intervention either, that would split ukraine apart. the people we talk to here are telling us, because that would only hurt russia economically and hurt him as well, probably politically. back to you. >> nbc's jim maceda, thank you very much. now we go directly to kristen
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welker, nbc news white house correspondent. kristen, a 90-minute conversation there. the white house explaining president obama's pressure on putin, and yet, when you look on the ground, obviously, putin making his own moves. what can you tell us today? >> reporter: well, it was a tense conversation, there's no doubt about that, with president obama announcing that the u.s. would be suspending its participation in those planning meetings for the g-8 summit, as you mentioned, ari. so the big question on this sunday is what can the united states actually do? what steps can it take to dissuade russia from intervening further in ukraine? the reality is, their options are limited. i've been talking to foreign policy advisers. also, former members of the obama administration, who acknowledged that the options are limited. they include things like sanctions, canceling meetings with russia's trade delegations, and canceling russia's membership in the g-8. you heard secretary john kerry signal that that is one of the
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options that's under consideration. it appears as though all of these options they're considering, though, are policy-based. in other words, they're not considering military intervention. you heard secretary kerry say that today on "meet the press," that that is not what anyone wants, military intervention. and what's interesting is that even some of the more hawkish members of congress aren't calling for military intervention. marco rubio today on "meet the press," saying that he doesn't think that anyone's advocating for military intervention. senator john mccain, who came out saying that the the u.s. o needs to take a stronger stance when it comes to russia, al signaled that military option isn't something the u.s. should be considering right now. it seems as though everyone's on the same page about that. but realistically, the options on the table for the u.s. are limited in scope. you heard president obama, though, say that there will be costs and a lot of people, republicans particularly, want him to enumerate what those costs will be, specifically. i can tell you that as of right
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now, there are no meetings that have been reported, that are scheduled here at the white house, but there will undoubtedly be high-level talks throughout the day as i they continue to monitor the situation. >> clearly a busy working sunday at the white house. kristen welker, thanks for your report. joining us now from our bureau in washington is the former u.s. ambassador to ukraine, william taylor. ambassador, good morning to you. let's start with what kind of country we are looking at. walk us through the changing government they have had and what they are dealing with on the ground. and then we'll go out to the foreign policy. >> so ukraine's new government is getting its feet on the ground. just last week, they were able to establish themselves. the parliament, the designated an interim president. they confirmed an interim prime minister and they took steps towards elections in may. so they are a new government. they do the legitimacy of the ratta, the elected ratta, but they're facing enormous
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problems, even before this attack on their sovereignty by the russians. the economic problems are nor enormous and they will have to deal with that after they've dealt with this crisis with the russians. >> when you were ambassador, what did you make of crimea, its position as an ethnically, somewhat different than the rest of the nation, its ties to russia, and what does it mean to us, as we look up on a map and look at that region. what does it mean to us from a u.s. perspective, that russia has what we might call now, an attempted foothold there. >> russia has a foothold there. it's clearly more than an attempted foothold. they're there. i spent a good amount of time in crimea, while i was in ukraine. indeed, i traveled around ukraine on my 30th wedding anniversary and had a very welcome time, it was not difficult at all. it is, as you say, largely, not
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overwhelmingly, but largely russian ethnic population. i noticed to my chagrin that all of the street signs were in russian. none in ukrainian. of course, none in any other language. so it is clearly a russian province of ukraine. but it is a province of ukraine. it has been since 1954. >> and does putin care about anything that we're doing or threatening at this juncture? >> i don't think he cares about anything we're threatening so far. however, he is clearly acting, and russia more broadly is acting as an outlaw state. we ought to deal with him as -- treat him as an outlaw state. and that means treat him like other outlaw states that we have sanctioned in the past. i'm thinking of south africa. >> let me ask you, to make sure i understand that as a final question. you then saying that you don't think the obama administration's moves up to this point have gone far enough? >> i think there's more to do. i think that they have talked about the kind of things that
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they are doing in terms of g-8 and going down to g-7. but i think there are specific sanctions on individuals that will get their attention, but more broadly, treating them as an outlaw state, as we did with south africa and iran. >> wow, strong words and i appreciate your perspective and expertise. ambassador william taylor in washington, d.c., thank you very much. and up next, we are going to look at why the battle for equality in arizona isn't staying in arizona. a new push to turn that defensive victory into offense and a deeper look at the religious underpinnings of our ongoing equality debate. you really love, what would you do?" ♪ [ woman ] i'd be a writer. [ man ] i'd be a baker. [ woman ] i wanna be a pie maker. [ man ] i wanna be a pilot. [ woman ] i'd be an architect. what if i told you someone could pay you and what if that person were you?
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welcome back. on wednesday, celebrations by some, sighs of relief by others, as arizona governor jan brewer vetoed sb-1062, the bill that had been roundly condemned by
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lbgt advocacy group, local and national businesses, democrats, republicans, even some of the state senators who had voted for the bill just days earlier. now, arizona's sb-1062, what would it have done? well, allowed are private business oeshs to cite their religious beliefs in refusing service to gay and lesbian customers. the bill and bills like it would have given more protection to private businesses like wedding photographers if they were sued sister discrimination for refusing to work for those gay customers. in other words, it would have made it easier for businesses to discriminate against lbgt people. it was pushed by people who fear that the freedom of religion is under attack. but she pushed back saying there were no instances in arizona of religious freedom taking a backseat to lbgt right. >> senate bill 1062 does not address a specific concern related to religious liberty in arizona. i have not heard of one example in arizona where business
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owners' religious liberty has been violated. >> the thing is, arizona is not an outlier here anymore. at least 12 other states are looking at similar bills. oregon could even see something on its ballot this year. several of these efforts have run into roadblocks, sure, or even political abandonment following the outcry in arizona. but it is, we think, all part of a larger strategy on the right, invoking religion as a trump card in venues where there was actually a consensus that other, shall we say, nonreligious values rule. i'm thinking about like profits in the corporate board room or science in the public hospital. and where arizona's effort failed spectacularly, a more careful interpretation and version of this argument is getting a serious hearing, including in a challenge to obamacare's contraception rules. that's pending before the supreme court. now, some call that effort to place employer's religious choices above federal law and above their employee's health choices. some call it a conscience creep. and even as lbgt organizers
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celebrate this defense of victory in arizona, it's still legal, under arizona law, to fire someone for being gay. what's more? it's legal under federal law to fire someone for being gay. and although the obama administration's pushed a bill to change that, it passed the senate last year, speaker boehner opposes it. some version of this bill has been introduced in congress for the past 40 years without success. we'll unpack all of this at the table this morning we have, professor of law and political science at yale university and a constitutional heavyweight. aisha moodie-mills, with the center for american progress, and ana palmer, and ira stole, a former managing editor of the very conservative "new york sun" and a current editor at thefutureofcapitalism.com. he's also the author of "jfk: conservative," a book we have battled over previously in a
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very conservative tone. i want to welcome you all to the table. i'm very excited about this discussion. i want to start with you, professor. when you look at the precedence here. the supreme court has already looked at these kind of rules, romer v. evans, the famous colorado case that wasn't even close. would these kind of rules in arizona, in your view, even be constitutional if enacted? >> oh, yeah, i think they would be constitutionally permissible, but not constitution nally required. the first amendment limits the federal government's ability to intrude on religious freedom. remember the first words of the first amendment, congress shall make no law abridging free exercise of religion. that idea of religious freedom against the federal government in the first amendment was expanded after the civil war and the 14th amendment came along, because states had misbehaved the civil war, and the 14th amendment came along. so, the constitution gives us
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rights against the government, but the supreme court has construed those rights fairly narrowly. basically, a law, state or federal, targeting a religious practice as such, that was free exercise. imagine, for example, arizona says, catholics can't use wine in sacrament. that would violate the first amendment, because it would be targeting the catholic church, a religious practice. but the supreme court has said it doesn't violate the constitution if you have a general law designed to serve -- >> a rule of -- >> like prohibition. all wine and the incidental effect of intruding on sack rrat sacrament. >> a lot of folks say they don't specifically target people. the court has said if there's animus towards gays, that is not a proper reason. but let's be clear. a lot of people in the lbgt community says this did target them. >> this is a last-ditch effort by a radical religious
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conservative right, that is trying to do everything that they can in their power not to comply with laws that are moving forward around the country that are equalizing access to the same benefits that everybody else enjoys for lbgt people. and they say as much. they say, we're actually creating these things, because we're trying not to comply with laws that we know are coming down the pike. and that is the problem here. this isn't about -- this all just really -- this freedom thing, is really about people saying, i don't want to comply with the law. >> ida, do you feel that there is a problem here, that religion people aren't being respected enough, or some of their values and faith is being driven out of public life? >> well, i think there's a broader culture war, that is targeted at religion and religious people in some ways. you see it in the ten commandments being taken out of courthouses, and you see it in this effort to depict these long-standing beliefs of major religions, for thousands of years, as all of a sudden
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bigoted. and the religious groups are picking up on that. this discrimination/bigot language and have been very successful for gay groups, and they're turning it around and saying, well, no, you're discriminating against us. we're the discriminated-against ones, and you're anti-religious bigots. so -- and let's pass a law to save it, the same way that the gay community has been going for these ballot resolutions and laws. >> so, i want to maybe bring down the conversation, sort of temperature, just a bit. we've been talking a little bit about the religious right, but let's remember, there's an important religious left in this country. >> i'm in it. >> it gives us the -- the abolitionists give us the 14th amendment, and their first position is really a religious one, that slavery is sin. martin luther king, if you had asked him to describe himself, he wouldn't have said civil rights leader, he would have said, i'm a preacher of the gospel. the reverend al sharpton, just to pick someone from this
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network. so, you know, i think it's a mistake to think of the crusade for protecting religion, even above and beyond what the constitution requires, as merely the province of one party or the other or one ideology. >> but what's really fascinating is if you look back into the bush administration, when they were trying to go in 2004, they were using ballot initiatives for pro, you know, anti-gay marriage in ohio to win those states. so you've seen such a shift in terms of where this, this dialogue is happening right now. >> and i want to pick up on something -- >> so let me say this. i want to go to you first when we come back. part of what we want to continue, and i think ira raises a big point. there are born-again christians and they say they feel disrespected and feel persecuted. up next, let's look at that, how our politics are defined by a fear of a secular planet. that's religious freedom and public enemy, that's up next. [ mom ] over the years, i've learned how to stretch my party budget.
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liberty bills that we've been talking about often say their faith is under attack. disrespected in the culture, dismissed in the schools, and squeezed out of government. it's a fear of a secular planet, or at least an atheist government. one sponsor of the arizona bill that we've been covering said, for example, that the bill was aimed at preventing the rising attempt at discriminating against religious folks because they are sincere and serious about the free exercises of their religious faith. brian walsh says the threat to religious freedom is really being driven by government officials and policy focused on compelling people to violate their conscience. and a sponsor for a similar bill in georgia, state senator josh -- i should say, josh mccoop said, coat, the only folks who have spoken against this legislation are people who wont the government to be a tool to promote militant atheism. it was something that governor mitt romney also warned about in
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the 2012 campaign when the religious flight over the aca's contraception mandate was heating up. >> i think there is, in this country, a war on religion. i think there is a desire to establish a religion in america known as secularism. as i think it was mike huckabee said, we're now all catholics. those of us who are people of faith, recognize this is -- an attack on one religion is an attack on all religion. and it's one more people that we need to get rid of obamacare. it's also one more reason why we need to get rid of obama. >> joining us now from washington to explain this fear of a secular government is sarah posener, an investigative journalist, you've been covering this, listening to our conversation. what is your take? >> well, i think what's important to remember here is that the organizations and activists who are pushing for these religious freedom laws believe that secular government is illegitimate. they think that the separation of church and state is what they call a myth that was created by activist judges. they believe that america was
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founded as a christian nation and its laws and policies should be governed by biblical principles. so, to the extent that same-sex marriage or other types of legal equality for lbgt people come into what they perceive as conflict with their religion, they view that as secular government, imposing its values in contravention of god's purposes for america, basically. i mean, that's not an exaggeration to say that that's what their belief system is, because they're pretty open about that being their world view. >> i'm going to bring in our table here. aisha was speaking about some of this in the last segment. >> yeah, the question becomes here, who are we talking about religious liberty for? is this about religious freedom for some people or religious freedom for everybody? and i think that that's really the core of the question. because, the folks who are really against this are a very specific sect of christianity. and i think that they debase
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religion, generally, by not taking into account that there are a lot of people of faith who believe in lbgt equality. so to pretend that religious freedom means that, oh, well, we just don't care about lbgt people, that's actually assuming that there's a very small group of people that have a religious faith, that that faith should be imposed on the rest of us. and that's not the case. and i think it's important that we talk about that as well. are >> and ana, when you report on the aca and these debates, that is the question, right? whether this is something that is asking someone else to change their beliefs or letting someone, for example, when you're a patient, letting you ultimately have the full range of choices for your beliefs. >> absolutely. i think what you're seeing is, the catholic bishops and other groups that are very powerful in washington are able to use that base to really push the obama administration and others to try and make changes, because they are saying, you know, we are active in this debate. we are the people who are going to turn out votes for you, ultimately, and where those laws are going to be made.
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>> sarah, i want to go back to you. your thoughts? >> well, i think it's important to remember that religious groups that hold these beliefs have many statutory and regulatory exemptions under the law that demonstrate that they are -- these laws are not being imposed on them, that they are actually been exempted from these laws. for example, under the affordable care act, churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the contraception coverage. they're just battling in court so that corporations who hold these religious beliefs can be exempt from it too. same-sex marriage laws, similarly, houses of worship and pastors are exempt from them, under -- in states like maryland and new york, where same-sex marriage became legal by the legislator, there were exemptions for houses of worship, so a same-sex couple could not go to a priest and force them, under the law, to marry them. so -- >> yeah, i think you're making such an important point there. and it is different than some of the older battles. i want to put up on the screen,
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the famous ten commandments battle in texas, where the question was whether you could have the ten commandments up in front of government buildings, greg abbott, who's of course now running for governor, fought for hard for that, all the way from the supreme court, ira. he won. but that strikes me as somewhat different, saying, can the ten commandments be viewed as a public matter rather than can people have their own choices in the hospital. >> there's two clauses in that. there's a no establishment of religion claus and there's a free exercise claus. what people say is when you're putting up the ten commandment, that's somehow an establishment, a government establishment of religion. whereas what we're talking about here, more as the free exercise part of it, and letting people be free to live according to their religious beliefs. the bigger point, i think, applies is that a small government, a modest government, gives all americans, whatever their religious beliefs, or no religious beliefs, the ability to make their own choices on these things.
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whereas if you impose something like obamacare that tells everybody you have to have certain things in your health insurance plan, it prevents employers and employees from making their own choices about that. >> well, and i want -- i see some shaking heads, we're going to go to, and sarah posener, i want to thank you for piping in from washington. i know you've been reporting on this a lot. people should check that out. up next, the professor will explain to us why he says he's a liberal discriminator. you can
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[clicks mouse] nice office. how you doing? good. automatic discounts the moment you sign up. welcome back. we've been talking about religious liberty and discrimination and professor amar was saying you, sir, you were saying you are, despite being what some would call on the left, you are a discriminator. >> i am a discriminator. we don't want government in the business of making certain discriminations on the basis of faith or sex or religion, but part of the private is the
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chance to choose. so before i got married, i actually only married women, and that's sex discrimination and that's sexual orientation discrimination. in my church, a presbyterian church, in order to be an employee, a high employee of the church, a pastor, you have to be a member of that church, that's religious discrimination. in the catholic church, which i hold in very high regard, and i hold the pope in very high regard, but let's remember, he was -- only men were eligible to be -- if that job position, or to be a priest. so i say we want to have space for private syringes to exercise religious and other freedom and choices. we want to have freedom for houses of worship and religions within themselves, but that's a little different, and this is what the debate is about, whether that's true for every business, every big business, every corporation. because corporations, especially for-profit corporations, don't
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quite have souls. and so we might want to carve out certain exemptions, certain enclaves of freedom, for houses of worship, for churches, for people in their private lives, but not necessarily for big business corporations. that's part of what the debate is about. >> i'm glad the professor brings up the distinction between our private and public lives. i feel like the discourse spends way too much time talking about all the exemptions we need to carve out for people in their private lives. but this is what's at debate here and this is what the supreme court will need to figure out. what happens went we talk about private accommodations. these conversations are about whether businesses with discriminate when they are providing a public service. and the law says that they cannot. so it would be the same thing as if, you know, if a jewish, if a jewish deli doesn't have pork on the menu, then, certainly, no one can walk in and demand pork and say, well, if you're not giving me pork, you're discriminating against me. but if they do offer pork, they can't say, well, we'll sell pork
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to the black people, but we won't sell it to the jewish people. so the conversation here is really about complying with the law. and people should not be able to skirt and get away with complying with public law in public life. >> i would just argue that those laws should be modest, because not every business is sitting around, looking for a way to discriminate. really, what they're looking to do is make money. so corporate america has actually been leading the way on domestic partners, on gay, friendly workplaces, because they want to attract those qualified employees. they don't want to rule out potentially qualified employees or customers. so, rather than the government jumping in and forcing them to do stuff they would do anyway, because it's in their best interests, i think government should be a little more modest. >> we certainly saw that in arizona. you had fortune 500 companies, delta, others say, this law should not go forward. so they did it of their own volition. but at the same time, when you're talking about this, it's really an outlier. not have many of these, are saying, we want these laws to go
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forward. we don't want to have to provide the medical benefits that the law now states. >> and today's business leaders, i think, have been quite progressive on some of this, because of the great success of anti-discrimination laws passed 50 years ago this year. the civil rights act of 1964, that prohibits big employers. there's a carveout for small employers, in the spirit of kind of privacy. >> but the problem is that lbgt people are not included that -- >> but 50 years ago, this law that says, you can't discriminate on grounds of race or sex, big employers, and that's changed the culture of -- >> right, and that's why we started this, to the point that aisha raised. that's why we started this conversation with etna. the 1964 civil rights laws have not evolved along with some of the groups we're seeing that need the protections, right? and your first amendment right to speak or pray doesn't mean you have a right to yell at your boss at any time, as the professor was saying with the government. we are out of time, or my bosses
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will yell at me. which they have every right to do. i want to thank aisha moodie-mills and ira stole, ana are sticking around for more constitutional battling. up next, this week, in voter suppression, the buckeye edition, part ii.
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tomorrow is full of promise. we can come back tomorrrow. and we promise to keep it that way. driven to preserve the environment, csx moves a ton of freight nearly 450 miles on one gallon of fuel. what a day. can't wait til tomorrow. hello, nerdland. prepare yourself for a moment of deja vu. or maybe i should say, deja vote. see what i did there? because i can't say it any better than melissa or joy reid already have, like, you know, last weekend. >> unfortunately, it also means we've had to dust off the tried and true graphic that regular viewers of mhp show will remember from the last election cycle, back in 2012. that's right, this week in voter suppression! and this week in voter suppression, the state of ohio
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is back at it again. >> now, you guys know i love joy. it is not a contest. but let me try. once again, today, we have an edition of "this week in voter suppression sclts "! and it's brought to you by the letters o-h-i-o. it was just over a week ago that ohio governor john kasich signed laws that cut six days off of early voting and absentee ballots were limited and john husted delivered another setback to voting rights with another cutback to early votes. he squashed early voting during the very class where a lot of people have free times, sundays and weekdays after 5:00 and that also affects many african-american churches and community groups that have run soles to the polls programs. here's the kicker in that all of this. mr. husted suppressed the rules in the same year that he is running for re-election against the person who's accused him of being the, quote, secretary of
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suppression, ohio state senator, nina turner. joining us now at the table, co-director of the advancement project, judith browne dianis, and zack roth, just back from texas reporting on some voting down there. let's start with you. what do we know here? >> well, what we know is that they are back to the same game. they dusted off the playbook and ohio, you know, the state that, remember, in 2004, had very long lines, nine-hour lines, has decided to cut early voting again. we also know that 77% of the people who voted in early voting in 2008 were african-american. so we know that this is going to hit african-american voters, and like you said, nina turner is running. someone who's a friend of democracy, but the republicans continue to make it harder to vote. >> yeah, you mentioned nitana turner. she was on rachel maddow earlier this week. let's take a listen to that. >> rachel, i want you to know that the ohio democratic party does plan to sue based on the voter suppression bills that
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passed this week and also last week, asking for them to be joined in federal court. and over the last five years, we have not lost one case that has been filed in federal court. help is on the way for the voters of this state. >> zack, she is right on the precedent. and help may be on the way. and yet one of the things that's frustrating to people who follow this issue and who want to vote is that even after you win, right, you win that case, but then you see these same shenanigans and tricks come up again. >> that's right. and what husted has done is sort of used his executive power to unilaterally cut sunday voting. and so, and the other thing is, even if you do win that case, part of the point of this, from the republican side, is just to create that level of confusion. so maybe you win the case, but then you've got to get out and educate all of your supporters that, hey, we won the case. those days of early voting that you thought were off are back on. and you are going to be able to register and vote on the same day and all that stuff. it all just adds to the kind of noise level, and in the end, has
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the effect of reducing turnout. >> but from a litigator's perspective, one of the things that's really interesting is that the republicans now know, from 2012, that their last-minute gain to suppress the vote backfired. that because of lawsuits that groups like advancement project were able to bring, we were able to stop them in their tracks. so now they're giving themselves a little bit more time, because they know that you can't do it at the last minute, because the courts don't like you messing with democracy at the last minute. >> so let's connect this to what we were talking about in the last blocks. we talked about how after the sieve war, the constitution was amended. it was amended to provide more religious freedom, but other things as well. the words "right to vote" didn't appear in the original constitution because of slavery. they couldn't. but beginning with the 14th amendment, this phrase, right to vote, appears no less than five times in the constitution, in the 14th and 15th and the 24th and the 26th amendment amendmen 19th as well.
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the right to vote is said gep and again and again in the constitution. and we're talking about ohio and that's not just some sort of surprise, since you mentioned 2004, i want everyone to remember, that john kerry lost that by 50,000 votes. if he had won that, he would have been president kerry. that we are talking about an increasingly polarized country in some ways. well, there are only four states in the last presidential election that were decided within less than five points, presidentially. and they were ohio and florida and virginia and north carolina. and we talked about religious freedom in the last segment. this is targeting black churches. we talked about how there's a religious left as well as a religious right, so they talk about religion and then they're actually trying to make it hard for soles to go to the polls. >> let me play devil's advocate. i mean, certainly, when you talk to what the republicans in the state are saying is, instead of having counties and having a bunch of different rules that are happening, it's going to be statewide. and certainly, this is going to impact 2014, but also 2016. i mean, that's the really, i imagine for you guys, one of your biggest issues, right?
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>> we know why it's happening. >> and the trifecta is, if the republicans hold the house, as they, i think, are likely to do. i teach political science as well as common law, and if they manage to win back the senate, the only thing is that stands between us and the complete repeal of obamacare is the presidential election of 2016, and this is important for them. >> ana plays devil's advocate, let me play the devil in your devil's advocate, which is that uniformity has never been important in our voting laws for hundreds of years and definitely not for the republicans who are doing this. >> if you talk to republicans, they say, why is this going to be that big of an issue? if you go to the polls, having a voter i.d., this is going to make the system to there's no issue of skacandals or anything. >> this isn't about voter i.d. this is making it easy for people who pay government salaries to actually exercise
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our right to vote. >> and right now they're saying, yeah, we need to make it uniform, earlier they were saying, we need to do this because there's voter fraud. before that, it was, we need to save money. there's always a rationale, but the results are the same. >> and the argument about religious freedom is trying to reach out people of faith and accommodate them. >> and zack just got back from texas. we'll look at your reporting and talk about the voting that has already begun. i can download anything i want. [ girl ] seriously? that's a lot of music. seriously. that's insane. and it's 15 bucks a month for the family. seriously? that's a lot of gold rope. seriously, that's a signature look. you don't have a signature look, honey. ♪ that's a signature look. [ male announcer ] only at&t brings you beats music. unlimited downloads for up to 5 accounts and 10 devices all for $14.99 a month.
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welcome back. did you know there isn't an election day in america anymore? it's true. as i was writing in 2012, when you ask how a candidate will do on election day, you might as well ask someone what their pager number is. people used to vote on a single day. in 2000, for example, nine out of ten people cast their votes on the first tuesday in november.
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now, by the time traditional election day rolls around, one in three americans will have already taken advantage of early voting, which is why the fall midterm elections really began, well, this week. that's when early voters in texas cast their ballots in advance of the first primary election, which is on march 4th. it's the second statewide election since the state rolled out its strict new voter i.d. law last year. brings us back to the panel, zack. you were down there covering the politics of this. we won't know until 2016 how it all completely works out. but texas is a state that took advantage of the ruling in shelby v. holder that made it harder to vote. >> that's right, they passed the voter i.d. law, which they had previously passed, before that ruling that you referred to, it was blocked. right away, the next day, they came back and said, too bad, that law is in effect. so this is -- these early voting days of the last week or two are among the first tests we've seen of the impact of that law. turnout isn't really high enough to get a conclusive picture of
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what that's going to do. but already, just from people i'm talking to, we're seeing sop kind of scattered problems on the ground. where people think they have i.d. that qualifies and doesn't. for instance, they have an expired driver's license, which you can use to get on a plane or do other stuff, but you can't use to vote around this law. they have an out of state driver's license, maybe they're a college student. >> should it be harder to vote than get on a plane? >> no, it should be easier. getting on a plane is not a right. this is a right under our constitution. it's fundamental to who we are. and so, we should have easy access. and we know that people have a difficult time getting this i.d. you have to get the underlying birth certificate, you have -- people have had to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to get some of these documents. and can't do it. and then, there's a lot of confusion around what you can do, what you can't do. all leading to problems with the polling place. >> and the constitution expressly says, there shouldn't be a poll tax on voting, but -- and we don't want people who
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aren't eligible to vote, whether because of mistake, innocent mistake, or fraud. so, let's, at the very least, let everyone, about whop there's a doubt, cast a provisional ballot, and let's figure out after election day, whether they were entitled to volt or not. but these are not really in place. >> and texas also underscores the problem with the loss of section five of the voting rights act, you know, the voting right acts stopped it in its tracks. section v allowed us to stop discrimination before it happened. when we're talking about elections, if discrimination happens, it's too late. the outcomes -- >> but how high is the bar? in 2013, there were only 122 of these kind of i.d.s that were actually enacted to the official ideas. what we're saying, is the bar too high, that people don't care enough? they don't have the money to actually fill out and get their certified birth certificate, or is it not as big of a deal that we all seem to be thinking it probably might be. >> i don't think it's that people don't care enough, i
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think people are busy with their lives and working and not evolved in the system, so that the process of getting an i.d., when you need one, perhaps isn't as simple as it might be for you and i. >> and that we live in a society where everything that's not important has been made easier. it's easier to get a text message, it's easier to buy a book online, it's easier to go get your cash out. yet we have people in government, more in the republican party than any other institution, trying to make it harder to exercise that fundamental right. we are out of time. and i warned you of that, professor. but this was a tremendous conversation, great people to have here. and i should mention to judith's point, the proposal, the voting rights amendments act would actually deal with restoring that. that's an issue i'm going to continue to cover in future segments. >> we won't talk about it right now. >> because we're out of time. thank you, thank you, and thank you. we very much appreciate it. judith is sticking around for some other stuff next hour on an important topic. there is an about-face taking place on both ends of the
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with a signature. legalzoom has helped start over 1 million businesses, turning dreamers into business owners. and we're here to help start yours. welcome back. i am ari melber in for melissa harris-perry. 781 days. that's how long american hikers shane bauer and josh fattal were in jail on espionage charges. shane spent four months in solitary confinement, an experience so defining when he did make it back home seven months later, he began investigating how we use that same punishment here in the u.s. he found many people who think we overincarcerate and overpunish. and in a new report for mother jones magazine, he describes how many are rethinking their justice policies, including some republicans. to understand this reevaluation, i think you have to look at how we got here. today's broken, overcrowded, and
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unjust prison system can really be traced to this moment, june 17th, 1971. >> america's public enemy number one in the united states is drug abuse. in order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive. >> even then, though, few understood just how much offense the government was about to play. republicans led the way and many democratic politicians followed suit, that included tip o'neill who reacted to the overdose death of glen bias with a big campaign. that campaign that started with an emphasis on enforcing the law became an arms race for who could pass new laws. by 1986, that led congress to pass the anti-drug abuse act, which authorized very long jail terms for nonviolent drug use with mandatory minimums. it passed the senate with a vote of 97-2 with 46 democrats on
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board. and that policy forcing judges to put users in jail often regardless of their individual situation or any mitigating circumstances, well, that drove today's prison realities. a prison population of more than 2.4 million people. that is more prisoners per capita than any other country, ever. it is a number that has quadrupled since 1980 alone. those numbers have gotten so bad, we're living through an overincredible backlash to the backlash. years of civil rights organizing coupled with expensive prisons and tight budgets are driving what i think is a revolution and it has two parts. one, a rejection of the 1980s-era politics of crime and fear and overincarceration and the stigmaization and criminalization of even minor drug offenses like marijuana use. and number two, a serious embrace, and this is important, of alternatives to prison, treatment, education, specialized courts, and really
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grappling with recidivism, something we should all care about. that is why president obama and attorney general eric holder embraced sentencing reform, like executive action to reduce mandatory minimums. and a new system to consider commuting the sentences of people who are still serving time under the old crack cocaine disparity. and it's why some republicans, to their credit, are changing gears. look, this is a good example. here's what newt gingrich said to "the new york times" in 1992. we have to build enough prisons so there are enough beds that every violent criminal in america is locked up and they will serve realtime and they will serve their full sentence and they do not get out on good behavior. shane bauer flagged that in miss mother jones article, but in 2011, here's what gingrich said. there's an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population with its huge costs and this loss of human potential. we can no longer afford business as usual with prisons. it's not just former politicians either. the 2012 gop platform written by rnc members uses what i think is a structuralist critique of prisons.
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that it's not only bad people who become criminals, but bad laws that categorize people as criminals. look at the platform's prison reform section. it says, quote, the resources of the federal government's law enforcement and judicial systems have been strained by unfortunate expansions, the overcriminalization of behavior and the overfederalization of offenses. new bills from republican senators, mike lee and rand paul, both with democratic co-sponsors, proposed drastic reductions in mandatory minimums. now, how are those bills doing? you may not have heard about this, but the senate judiciary committee just passed the lee durbin smarter sentencing bill by an overwhelming 13-5 vote. and unlike most bills in d.c., it's ready for a full vote on the senate floor. reforming the criminal justice system is never politically easy. we have a failed war on drugs in this country. it was started by both parties and there are signs it may be ended by both parties. our panel today reflects some of the revolution on this issue. judge tim lewis, who was appointed by president george
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h.w. bush to the press tinlgs third circuit court of appeals. he's received many awards, including recognition in the best lawyers for america list for regulatory law and the minority bar committee award for the pennsylvania bar. again with once advancement project co-director, judith brown dianis, judge billy, who served as a criminal defense attorney. he's been named one of the top 100 trial lawyers in the u.s., as well as reason magazine's peter suderman. and on remote, shane bauer, the investigative journalist behind that piece joins us from boulder, colorado. shane, your previous pieces looked at solitary confinement in america. now this piece, you're looking at the republicans changing their position. why? >> well, i think it's interesting that right now, you know, after three decades of kind of a massive rise in our prison population, that we're seeing it shift. in 2009, our prison population started falling. and, you know, a lot of this is actually coming from conservative policies.
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texas's prison population has fallen 20% since 2007. you're seeing, you know, people like newt gingrich, rand paul, call for a repeal of mandatory minimums. and you know, they're kind of shifting a lot of conservative states right now. there's a group called right on crime that's really kind of leading the way in this. >> and you mentioned rand paul. he spoke about judge lewis, who's here at the table. let's take a listen to that and get your response. >> federal judge timothy lewis recalls a case where he had to send a 19-year-old to prison for conspiracy. what was the conspiracy? the young man was in a car where drugs were found. i don't know about you, and this is judge lewis, but i'm pretty sure one of us might have been in a car in our youth at one point in time where there might have been drugs in the car. zblunlg lewis, your take there? >> you know, when senator paul made those remarks, i got a call from a colleague of mine at my law firm who said, i never thought the day would come when
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rand paul would be quoting tim lewis. but i think that for those of us who care deeply about this issue and have been writing and working and fighting for reform, we don't care where the support comes from. it doesn't matter. it doesn't matter to people like weldon angelos who's serving 55 years in federal prison for selling marijuana on three occasions, a total amount of $350 worth of marijuana, because he had a firearm, allegedly, on his person at the time. weldon angelos doesn't care if it comes from senator paul, senator durbin, tim lewis or anyone else. but this is a welcome convergence, i think, of ideologies at a time when more, greater bipartisanship is truly needed. i think that senator paul and many on the conservative side of the aisle have recognized that it is very difficult to make the
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argument that one is for less government and less government spending and not be in favor of prison reform and other means of reducing what has become a significant problem. >> peter? >> i think that, you know, the interesting thing about this issue is no matter how you look at it, when you look at the facts, regardless of your ideology, regardless of your desired outcome, the conclusion is pretty clear. we are spending too much money and locking up too many people. the federal prison system is right now operating at 136% of capacity. it's on track to 155%. i mean, that's just not sustainable, the rand paul, mike lee proposals are supposed to be, are supposed to save about $2.5 billion and reduce prison bed usagely t by tens of thousa
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hundreds of thousands, perhaps, over the next few years. this is the kind of thing that needs to be done, and regardless of where you come from, this is the sort of thing that you can see the case for. >> and shane, bringing you back in here, spooepeter's speaking the vantage point of writing for a libertarian magazine. they have been consistent on this for some time. it is really the politicians who have finally found the conservative arguments here, right? >> right, yeah. and i think, you know, if you look at the polls in texas, for example, republicans in texas in a recent poll were 80% in favor of drug treatment over incarceration for drug offenders. you know, and then off situation like in california, where you have a democratic government that is resisting reforms, you know, and last summer, jerry brown vetoed a bill that would have reduced sentences for low-level drug crimes, and you actually had conservatives, this group, right on crime, that was lobbying for that bill in california. >> and i should mention, shane,
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to your point. not just cost, judith, but also to the issues of the impact on communities of color. rand paul quoted michelle alexander to talk about this as jim crow. >> yeah, pretty amazing. but, yeah, the collateral consequences for communities of clor colors, i mean, it's devastated our communities. from not only the fact that people are being taken out of our communities, but on top of that, at the end of the day, they lose their voting rights, they have a hard time finding employment on the other side. and so we have all of these other impacts that disproportionately impact people of color and communities of color. >> i'm glad you mentioned voting rights. the obama administration actually has a new proposal on that that we'll go to. i want to thank shane bauer for your reporting and for joining us from colorado. and still to come, "orange is the new black" author, piper kerman, but also, attorney general is next. [ female announcer ] skin looking tired?
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and through the department's civil rights division and other components, we will continue to work with allies, like the department of education, and others throughout the federal government and beyond to confront the school-to-prison pipeline and those zero tolerance school discipline policies that really do not promote public safety and that transform too many educational institutions from doorways of opportunity into gateways into the criminal justice system. >> that was attorney general eric holder, challenging how so many young people enter the prison pipeline. he was addressing the american bar association, from august. he also outlined the justice department's plan to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing, which we mentioned for nonviolent drug crimes. before he became the first black
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attorney general in u.s. history, holder saw how mandatory sentences worked firsthand when he was a d.c. trial judge. last year, in fact, he told the daily beast, quote, i saw an ocean of young men come before me, who should have been the future of my city, destined to serve long jail terms and then spend their lives dealing with all of the negative consequences of being an ex-offender. as holder approaches these changes to federal mandatory minimums, he does so while making this moral and civil rights claim. we go back to our esteemed panel here for this special discussion. judge, talk to us about that, both how children end up getting treated immediately as potential criminals, rather than some other approach, and what it does when they come back out of preside prison. >> overincarceration is the single worst problem black people have to rebuild families, to educate children, to make sure that everyone is as productive as a human being is
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capable of being in a society of otherwise great opportunity. and so, we've got to stop this overincarceration as quickly as possible if we're going to put black people back on the road to productivity. but i'm skeptical about these reforms. not because i'm not enthusiastic, i'm very enthusiastic about what i hear and what i see. but the resistance on the ground is going to be overwhelming. prosecutors are already up in arms about it. they're emotionally invested in the old way of doing business. they're used to sending people to jail for long periods of time and not giving a damn. judges are in the same position. they're used to the system. there have only a minority of judges who have protested against the regime. so i don't anticipate there's going to be quick change. that's why obama's appointment of judges is a very critical step in bringing all of this to being. and republicans are now trying to sabotage his efforts to fill
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all of the vacancies in the federal system. >> let me go to judge lewis, and i should mention, many have said they don't want the mandatory minimums taken away. and interestingly, they haven't said mandatory minimums are always good. what they've said is, it helps us threaten and bully people into a plea bargain. >> it's an absurd argument. it's an unfortunate position, and prosecutors have not sat there and had to sentence a young 19-year-old to ten years in prison for a first offense, never been in trouble before in his life, had an opportunity to go to college. what is the gain in that? there is no gain in that, to society or to anyone else. prosecutors don't have to sentence somebody, as i mentioned weldon angelos, to 55 years in prison for selling marijuana. it is absolutely absurd and outrageous. these are medieval sentences. they do nothing to benefit society, they do everything to
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hirpd our economic development, societal development, and also families are directly impacted. >> but, tim, i disagree with you fundamentally on the point about prosecutorial power. it is prosecutorial power that is driving this system. >> i didn't address power. that's the problem, is the power. >> that they have too much power. they don't want to give it up. they've now set the sentences. they have the charging power. these sentence guidelines give them this enormous power to coerce people to plead guilty. and by the time they've pled guilty, the judge's hands are tied. and so, tim lewises of the world don't have a choice. they have to impose the sentences that, in effect, have been imposed by prosecutorial power. and the system was designed to be a prosecutor's coercive power. >> but the question had to do, and you and i do agree, but the question had to do with the prosecutor's positions on mandatory minimum sentences.
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>> and what i said and what i believe is that this is just an absurd argument. they have not been in the position where they've actually had to impose a situation or -- >> that's where i disagree with you. they have already imposed the sentence that you have to rubber stamp as a federal judge. so they're doing it. >> that is true, that is true. >> and we need sweeping changes with regard to prosecutors, who's appointed as prosecutors, who's in the pipeline, how they, you know, in some places, where they get elected, who is being elected to those seats. clearly, we saw in recent trials, like the dunn trial, that prosecutors make all the difference and people need to wake up and understand the power that they have. >> i think you put it well. in the dunn trial as well as the prosecution of george zimmerman, something we're touching on later in the hour raised these issues. we're going to move from some of the bad news back to the good news, particularly what's working, up next. the surprising place where reform is working. stay with us. (vo) you are a business pro.
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it's no surprise that texas has aimed to be tough on crime for many years, but recently texas has found that relying on prison for so many different infractions, for adults and nonviolent drug offenses to children's mistakes at school, well, it turned out to be pretty tough on texas and its budget. in 2012, only the federal system's population of prison was larger than texas's prison population. back in 2006, texas was facing a prison system that would cost more than $2 billion. that kind of cost didn't just move texas voters, it moved one of the most recognizable conservatives in the state, rick perry. so in 2007, faced with another prison reform bill, perry sat down with reformers to make changes. and now this is texas where it can feel like the democrats are on the right and republicans are off the grid, but here in texas,
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perry hashed out a bipartisan package. he created a new criminal justice oversight committee to evaluate reforms and successes. it expanded drug courts, which are key to push treatment over prison. $241 million to create parole and probation treatment programs. shortened probation terms and a medical parole program. and it's been long enough that the results are coming in. the state's prison population has stabilized, texas closed a state prison for the first time in 2011. and by locking up fewer people, the reforms saved projected more than $2 billion for texas by 2012. and according to a new report by the very institute of justice, texas isn't the only state working on this. since 2000, 29 states have actually enacted laws to increase some kind of judicial discretion for sentencing. and according to one report, the three-year recidivism rate for inmates released in 2007 improved to 24.3% over the old rate of 31%. that's a 22% decline. let's bring back in the panel and talk about the fact that
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recidivism is something that everyone cares about, because you don't want to send people off to jail and send them on a cycle of repeat offenses. and what we're finding is, and i'll start with the judges. what we're finding is, when you actually take people and not only deal with whether or not they should have a long term, or whether they should have programs, drug courts, treatment, education in prison, the resed vichl rate, which is something everyone opposes, the recidivism rate drops. >> ari, it's as i said before. this is a very welcome ideological convergence. we have different conservatives approach and the more progressive approach that m thes seem to pursue meeting here and recognizing that alternatives do work. and are important. that thought-out programs that are designed to effect the status of inmates and, obviously, effect their status after they leave prison, can work, as opposed to the traditional, just send them in
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and let them sit there for many, many years and so forth. so, this is a good thing. texas' program has been very successful, for the reasons that you've just pointed out. it is being copied elsewhere around the country. there are more -- we see more alternative sentencing courts developing in states throughout the country. and they have had an impact on recidivism, and that, obviously, is very important to all of us. so it's a good development. >> let me play some sound from attorney general eric holder, praising the states. take a listen. >> alongside other important reforms -- >> in texas, investments in drug treatment for nonviolent offenders and changes to parole policyies have brought about a reduction in the prison population of more than 5,000 inmates last year alone. the same year, similar efforts helped arkansas reduce its prison population by more than 1,4 1,400. in georgia, north carolina, to pennsylvania and ohio, and far
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beyond, reinvestment and serious reforms are a proven public safety and saving precious resources. >> these reforms, as they're called, are not really reforms at all. they're like a person who's overeaten and the doctor tells them that unless he cuts back on his food intake, he's going to get sick. it isn't a change in the diet. and that's what we really need. so instead of the bad food of the war on drugs, we need to eliminate the war on drugs. i'm a member of l.e.a.p., law enforcement against prohibition, and i agree more with the libertarians on this issue that be the democrats. and that is, as long as we have drug prohibition, we'll have a steady diet of bad food, overincarceration. and these so-called reforms are like putting band-aids s on the cancer that is the war on drugs. >> judge, let me go to you -- >> well, you know, a song is coming on here.
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♪ money, money, money, money this is where you find your partners because the republicans are saying, too much money. but at the end of the day, we have to have a change in thinking so that we're thinking about rehabilitation instead of punishment. we still do have a punishment mentality and we have to get away from that. >> yeah, judith brown dianis, i know this is your last block at the table with us and i'm glad you said that. this is something we'll continue to talk about, because when i interviewed attorney general eric holder, something he's very passionate about is drug courts. which is a new model -- >> i hate drug courts. >> i'm going to find out. thank you, judith brown dianis. up next, the woman behind "orange is the new black" joins us. [ male announcer ] winter olympian ted ligety can't take a sick day tomorrow. [ coughs ] [ male announcer ] so he can't let a cold keep him up tonight. vicks nyquil. powerful nighttime 6 symptom cold and flu relief.
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communities of prison, 24-hour lockdown leaves you in a 6 x 8 cell for weeks or months or even years and this is unproductive for individuals, for prison institutions, and the outside communities, to which 97% of all prisoners return. >> that was piper kerman, author of the book, you may have heard of, "orange is the new black," which also is a netflix series. she was testifying before the senate judiciary committee at a hearing that looked at the use of solitary confinement by federal prisons. when it comes to solitary confinement, changes are coming, but slowly. new york state became the largest prison system changed the rules how rules are used. solitary will be limited to 30 days for those who are developmentally disabled. small steps. the negative psychological steps of solitary confinement can be permanent for any of the approximate 80,000 inmate who is live in some sort of restrictive confinement. and the financial costs are pretty staggering.
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at pelican bay state prison in california, the place with 30,000 inmates protested conditions including solitary confinement last year. between 2010 and 2011, the cost to house an inmate in security housing units like this was more than $70,000. an inmate in an administrative segregation was nearly $78,000 compared to the usual price of $58,000. so, given the trauma and the cost that solitary confinement brings, why not more states looking for alternatives to end the practice completely? joining us now at the table is piper kerman. thank you for being here. >> hi, ari. >> you put a lot of this out into the public consciousness and the culture, particularly because you had a book people wanted to read, and a show people wanted to watch. what are your goals here? >> in talking about solitary confinement specifically, my goals are to see far fewer people put into both administrative segregation, which is long-term solitary confinement, but also disciplinary segregation, which is theoretically short-term, but is often 90 days, which is a
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very long time for someone to spend in solitary confinement, particularly if they suffer from mental illness, which a disproportionate number of prisoners do suffer from, and particularly female prisoners. >> and you said, we're talking about only about solitary, because you're working on several things, not only solitary. let me play some of your testimony on another important issue. let's listen. >> solitary is also misused as a threat to intimidate and silence women who are being sexually abused by staff, which is a widespread problem in prisons, jails, and detention centers that house women. there are egregious examples of solitary confinement being used by prison officials to hide horrific, systemic sexual abuse under their watch. the terrible threat of isolation makes women afraid to report abuse and serves as a powerful disincentive to ask for help or justice. >> we wanted to look today at many aspects of the problem in our failed war on drugs and our overincarceration. we have spent some time talking about a lot of issues.
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we haven't even gotten to the fact that inside a lot of these prison systems, men and women are facing tremendous illegal sexual misconduct. >> that's true. you know, two particularly notorious examples of the problem that i referred to in my testimony include the otter creek correctional facility in kentucky, where 400 women prisoners were moved out of the facility because the correctional system of kentucky, you rrived at the conclusion that they couldn't stop the rape culture and sexual abuse that was taking place there, so rather they moved all those women out. currently in alabama, the tutweiler prison for women is under a doj investigation for unbelievable, again, systemic sexual abuse, and that includes the use of solitary confinement to silence women who are experiencing that. >> solitary confinement is itself abuse, if you go back and look at some of the cases that have been lodged against solitary confinement centers. the details included in them are
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utterly horrific and that's for nor solitary treatment, not in the instances where the guards are going far beyond, you know, what is expected or you know, what is asked of them. people are kept in tiny rooms for 23 hours a day with the lights on. you can't shut the lights off. you're shackled to a pole while they conduct therapy sessions with you. they do mental health interviews you through the little tiny window in your door, so you can't even have any contact with other human beings. it's just incredibly shocking. and it's incredibly expensive. it's not just the expense of keeping the prisoners, though, there's also a huge legal liability. >> and it's hard to hear about and think about, which is why people don't want to talk about it. judge lewis, president bush sr. appointed you, you were the youngest federal judge, you were on the third circuit. you have seen more than a lifetime of a judge on a lot of these issues. how do we change this? >> well, first of all, i think that piper's testimony before the senate judiciary committee is going to be very helpful. and i think well received.
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i believe that there is now a bipartisan effort to address the problem of solitary confinement as well as a number of the other issues that we've been talking about. when you -- when i look at this issue, i do as i hope many do, which is to ask myself, what is this accomplishing? why are we doing it? and what are the effects? and when you examine the question from that perspective, it doesn't accomplish anything except punishment and very abusive punishment, at that. it doesn't do anything -- if anything, it actually enhances the chance of recidivism. and the long-term effects have been documented. heavy psychological effects and, so, it really serves no purpose. now, that said, we do -- we have maximum security, super max penitentiaries in the federal system that are designed to house the most dangerous inmates in the country. and i think that there are some
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who, whether -- if they're a danger to themselves or a serious danger to others, there are some significant measures that must be taken. but this is different. i mean, nine, ten months of solitary confinement or longer than that for minor transgressi transgressions, significant transgressions, these can be addressed in different ways. >> and whether -- >> and judge, whether it's a last resort or something that is being used commonly and abusively. up next, as we've been saying, we go to the good news, the solutions to this problem. stay with us. worried shampooing might damage your hair? don't be. new pantene brings new repair & protect. clinically proven to make hair healthier with every wash. new hair... new you. new repair & protect from new pantene.
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[ male announcer ] whatever the reason. whatever the dish. make it delicious with swanson. welcome back. community service, restitution, halfway houses, drug courts, probation and community corrections, home confinement and electronic home community service, mental health courts, restorative justice. what do all these things have in
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common? well, they're all alternatives to what we've been talking about this hour, the traditional sentencing regime. and according to a december poll, 71% of americans now favor the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders in favor of, for example, discretionary spending, a 2012 public opinion strategy survey shows 69% of those surveys support alternatives the to prison for nonviolent offenders. so, what is the holdup? that's what we're asking here as we complete an important discussion and panel with judges, with leaders, with libertarians. judge lewis, i want to start with something that eric holder has been working on, and i had the chance to travel with him to roanoke to a veteran's court. that is one of the specialty courts we've been talking about. and i want to put up on the screen what the attorney general has said. "by offering alternatives to incarceration and linking participants with vital rehabilitation and treatment resources, this program provides a model for preventing
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recidivism, reducing relapse and empowering veterans convicted of certain nonviolent crimes to rejoin their communities as productive, law-abiding members." i found that a majority of our incarcerated veterans have drug problems. a majority also suffer from psd and emotional strain. this is a piece of this crisis, of this immorality, i think, that might be one of the hardest ones for people to really swallow. that we take men and. women who served this country, risked their lives. they come back with emotional strain, and if they end up self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, they're treated like a lot of other people who have those problems in this country, which is that they're immediately locked up. judge russell in buffalo started, as you know, a veteran's court a few years ago. there's now over 100 around the country and the alternatives model and attorney general holder oversaw the first federal one. >> ari, we should be very
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grateful that we have an attorney general who has served as a prosecutor, as a judge and a defense lawyer, and now as the chief law enforcement officer in the united states, who has praised the roanoke program, as you mentioned. of course, i'm familiar with the success in the buffalo program. anesthesia are very, very important to the long-term care of, as you pointed out, those who have served our country, bravely on the battlefield. some of these people have brought back with them problems that are unique and have to be dealt with in a different way. and so, these veteran courts are designed to focus on some of the issues that those who have faced combat have, or have developed. now, drug treatment, which is the primary issue here for nonviolent offenders, low-level offenders, is, i think the smart way to go and the right way to go, because we see what has happened to the prison
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population by focusing our efforts on mandatory minimums and the other problems that plague the criminal justice system for many, many years now. thankfully, these are changing. i think that veterans court, drug courts in general, and any number of other alternative sentencing approaches are very key to that. >> and that's something that really is significant and it's funny, the president had his year of action, but he didn't talk as much in the state of the union about all the executive action they're taking on this issue, because of the politics, which judge murphy was talking about. let me play attorney general eric holder here in our interview talking about his legacy. >> i think we have a moment in time now where congress, as well as those of us in the executive branch, think that it's time to pull back just a bit. and so i think that, i hope that will be a part of my legacy. >> piper, he was saying, let's pull back from using incarceration as the response to every social problem. >> mm-hmm. and there's a lot of discussions about confinement and a lot of discussions about reentry, but the name of the game is the front end of the system.
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we really want to reduce our prison population. and that means sentencing reform and it means courts reform. and it means innovative courts like the ones that you've described. one caution on the flag there is that those defendants who go into special courts really do need to have defensive counsel that is meaningful, so they need to have public defenders or court-appointed counsel. 80% of criminal defendants are too poor to avoid a lawyer. they rely on a public defender or a court-appointed counsel and they need to get the same quality of defense that i got. >> right. we're out of time. i want to give a counterpoint to judge murphy before we go. >> the problem with these reforms is due process. and we see that wherever there is no entitlement to protection on the level that you get in a court, these special courts run over the rights of the people that they are designed to protect. and so, in many ways, they make it easy for people to go to jail. they make it easier for people
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to violate their probation, because the people involved in special courts don't get the training and experience that is necessary to understand the nature of addiction and how to deal with it. >> and i will say, your honor. i appreciate that note of caution and want to make sure to get you in. and i want to thank a very special panel we were able to have here. up next, a deep look into the trial of george zimmerman. legal analyst and author of the n a new book, lisa bloom joins us. with me turning her home into an ice rink. ♪ she'd just reach for the bounty select-a-size. it's the smaller, powerful sheet that acts like a big sheet. look, one select-a-size sheet of bounty is 50% more absorbent than a full size sheet of the leading ordinary brand. use less, with the small but powerful picker-upper, bounty select-a-size. use less, with the small but powerful picker-upper, "stubborn love" by the lumineers did you i did. email?
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an answer to the question. of why we did it. welcome back. wednesday, february 26th marched two years since trayvon martin's death. on tuesday, martin's father, tracy, spoke with abc and the reverend sharpton about the kind of violence that took his son's
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life. >> it's like the value of african-american kid's lives really don't matter. we got to stand up as leaders and let this country know, it's not okay to kill our kids and just, you know, live a little slap on the hand and you walk away. it's not okay. >> it was win of the most high professionally trials in 2013. martin's killer, george zimmerman was found not guilty. lisa bloom fog the trial closely shares her analysis of what happened in the trial. the new best-selling book, "suspicion nation: the inside story of the trayvon martin injustices and why we continue to repeat it. "and the trial tactic, in the zimmerman case presents the arguments they would have made painting the portrait of the trial. joining us is lisa blum a legal
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analyst and, of course, a colleague we've discussed this trial on air and off-air. let me start by asking you what is new and important in the book in your view? >> well, as i covered the case day to day i was comment on what i was seeing. but i had an uneasy feeling. there was a lot going on behind the scene. that's what i wanted to investigate after the trial was over. i discovered a very disturbing story what was going on during the sequestration process among the jurors the three weeks. i opened the story with natty, she's the only nonwhite juror. she was the only one who, for example, had a deputy posted outside of her hotel door. she wondered if that was a racial profiling issue or just a coincidence. the way people are often wondering, is it me, my skin color or something i did. i also talk about rachel
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gentile, one of the most important witnesses in the case. i get her story behind the scenes. how poorly she was prepared, for example. how nervous she was and ultimately the conversation she wanted to tell about trayvon martin that she wasn't asked about. >> and a lot ofs authorize ressd tuds of a trial. the president spoke this week specifically. take a listen to what he said on thursday. >> in the aftermath of the trayvon martin verdict, with all the emotions and controversy that it sparked, i spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men. and give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them. >> your book is also about where we go from here.
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>> right. youut re. and in so many of these trials we don't want to talk about race. one of my big criticisms in this case and the jordan davis case, was the prosecutor's absolute fear about talking about race. and the case is clearly it was involved. that's what's gotten so many people stirred up in the case. inside the courtroom, it's a nonissue because they're aphrased to raise it. it turns out while many of us are uncomfortable talking about race, it can be done. of i talk about the differences. in doctor's offices, doctors spent twice as much time were with white patients as bad patients. when they're advised of that problem, many doctors change their behaviors. >> that's something in psychology they call attitude inoculation. the idea of actually learning about a problem in your mind will make you less likely to have that problem. i want to put up on the screen a problem that a lot of its have, which is we fear the wrong
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things. you document in the book, people are afraid of crime and some people are afraid specifically of the criminal danger afraid to beat. you list the leading causes of death. heart disease, cancer, liver disease, stroke, diabetes, you go down that list, we couldn't get to violent crime. >> right. >> you write in your book, near the end, that we would be better off work on the slippery surfaces in our homes than carrying guns to protect ourselves. >> yeah, if you want to fear america's number one killer, fear cheeseburgers, right? it's not crime at all. crime is way down, down to 1960 levels. down in the south. this fear of criminality, let's call it what it is, the fear of the criminality black male
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criminality. it's very poorly placed. i call the book "suspicion nation" because i want to get us fast our peers of our neighbors. >> lisa blum. thank you for reporting. >> thank you. >> it was a treat. i will see you next saturday at 10:00 a.m. eastern. now, it is time for a preview of "weekends with alex witt." >> thank you. i lot to unpack this busy sunday. ukraine remains a delicate situation. the new prime minister warning just hours ago, quote, we are on the brink of disaster. and how will president obama reactor to president putin's power play. yet another massive storm is heading quickly towards the east coast. what city should be bracing for impact come monday. >> olympian on trial. former track star oscar pistorius about to be on court accused of murdering his girlfriend. buried treasure. millions pulled out of the ground in california.
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new alarm in ukraine. the tension escalates with russian troops moving through crimea. president obama an vladimir putin talk on the phone for 90 minutes. it's being described as a testy conversation. what was said? did it resolve anything? another snow alert across the west, and now in the east. the latest forecast in moments. and taking a toll, the long hard winter leaves america's highways, roads, bridge, a mess. the realities and dangers that exist every time you get behind the wheel. and that huge gold find. how did two people happen to stumble upon $10 million in gold coins in their backyard? it's a fascinating back story. hey, everyone, it's high noon here in the